Tech Today w/ Ken May

Archive for September 26th, 2017

Equifax CEO Richard Smith suddenly decides to ‘retire’

Posted by kenmay on September - 26 - 2017

Equifax has been in the news lately for all the wrong reasons, following a chain of blunders and mismanagement after it revealed that a security breach leaked the personal data of 143 million people . This morning, the CEO of Equifax and chairman of its board, Richard Smith, retired effective immediately. In a release, Equifax stated that it has appointed Paulino do Rego Barros, Jr., as interim CEO. He’s been with the company for seven years and most recently was the president of Equifax’s Asia Pacific division. Smith will stay on as an unpaid advisor to oversee a smooth transition. He cites the reason for his departure as the data breach: “At this critical juncture, I believe it is in the best interests of the company to have new leadership to move the company forward, ” he said. Smith is the latest casualty of the epic breach (their Chief Security Officer and Chief Information Officer also “retired” ), which has been catastrophically mishandled by Equifax. The company’s failure to patch a well-known security hole is the reason hackers were able to gain access to the data. The company’s executives are also under DOJ investigation for suspiciously timed stock sales that occurred after Equifax realized the breach had occurred but before it disclosed information to the public. And their credit freeze pins had security issues of their own . It’s unclear whether new management will ease Equifax’s woes, after how mishandled this entire breach has been from the start. Senators have called for credit report changes , allowing for consumers to have more power over their information. It makes sense; credit agencies should be held accountable when they make terrible errors in judgment and don’t take action to protect the sensitive personal data they handle every day. Via: CNBC Source: Equifax

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The Ataribox will cost under $300 and ship next spring

Posted by kenmay on September - 26 - 2017

Atari has so far kept pretty schtum about its forthcoming Ataribox , but in an email newsletter it’s now revealed a few nuggets of information that should tide fans over until the console’s Indiegogo launch this fall. As the newly-released pictures show, design-wise you can expect an Atari 2600 influence with a modern twist (and yes, that is real wood). Inside, the console will be powered by an AMD customized processor and run Linux, so you’ll be able to tinker with the OS and access games bought from other platforms, as well as do all the usual PC-for-TV things, such as streaming, listening to music and navigating social media. Frustratingly, there’s still no word on pre-loaded games, although the company says it’ll “start talking titles very soon”. However, it has said it plans on shipping in late spring 2018, with an expected price tag of $250-$300 (£185-£225). Fans who get involved with the Indiegogo campaign, coming this fall, will be able to get their hands on special editions and exclusive pricing. And by then they’ll be chomping at the bit.

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Boeing offers a $2 million prize for a working jetpack

Posted by kenmay on September - 26 - 2017

It’s 2017, and as the refrain goes, where are the flying cars? Boeing is more interested in “personal flying devices” — aka, jetpacks — and is partnering with new organization GoFly to post a $2 million bounty for working designs. Kind of like an X Prize competition, the partners are giving teams two years to develop their tech before whomever impresses the judges at a “final fly-off” takes home money from the GoFly Prize pool. Boeing and other big names in aviation (along with DARPA) will lend their mentorship and technical expertise to the teams over the course of the contest. Winning is simple: The jetpack must carry a person 20 miles without refueling or recharging with vertical (or nearly vertical) take-off and landing. Teams will get technical guidelines — the competition is seeking a solution anyone can use that is ultra-compact, quiet and “urban-compatible” — but how they design or engineer their “personal flying device” is up to them. Competition prize money will be doled out in three phases: Ten teams with interesting written concepts will be given $20, 000 prizes, then four $50, 000 will be handed out for the best prototypes and revised technical specifications, before a winner at the “final fly-off” takes home $1 million. Even if they don’t win, teams may qualify for supplementary prizes at the last event, including $100, 000 for “disruptive advancement” of state-of-the-art aviation tech, $250, 000 for quietest entry and $250, 000 for the smallest. Teams can register for the first phase of competition now on the GoFly Prize site until April 4th, 2018. After that, teams must register for Phase II by December 8th, 2018. Source: GoFly Prize

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Microsoft plans Office 2019 release for next year

Posted by kenmay on September - 26 - 2017

The next version of Microsoft Office is coming to a computer near you soon. The company announced today that Office 2019 will be released sometime in the second half next year. Previews will ship in mid-2018. It will include the applications we’re used to, such as Word, Excel and Powerpoint, as well as servers such as Skype for Business and Exchange. Microsoft is making the cloud a centerpiece of its Ignite conference this week, but the company also realizes that not all of its users are ready to fully commit. As such, Microsoft is making this version of Office software work for both customers that are already fully working in the cloud as well as those who are still on their way to that point. Some of the new features in Office 2019 that it highlights are new formulas and charts for Excel, inking features that are both new and improved and visual animation for presentations. Additionally, Office 2019 will focus on IT manageability, usability, voice and security for server updates. Microsoft will release more information about Office 2019 over the next few months. Via: The Verge Source: Microsoft

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(credit: Koichi Taniguchi ) There’s a vulnerability in High Sierra and earlier versions of macOS that allows rogue applications to steal plaintext passwords stored in the Mac keychain, a security researcher said Monday. That’s the same day the widely anticipated update was released. The Mac keychain is a digital vault of sorts that stores passwords and cryptographic keys. Apple engineers have designed it so that installed applications can’t access its contents without the user entering a master password. A weakness in the keychain, however, allows rogue apps to steal every plaintext password it stores with no password required. Patrick Wardle, a former National Security Agency hacker who now works for security firm Synack, posted a video demonstration here . The video shows a Mac virtual machine running High Sierra as it installs an app. Once the app is installed, the video shows an attacker on a remote server running the Netcat networking utility . When the attacker clicks “exfil keychain” button, the app surreptitiously exfiltrates all the passwords stored in the keychain and uploads them to the server. The theft requires no user interaction beyond the initial installation of the rogue app, and neither the app nor macOS provides any warning or seeks permission. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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MacOS High Sierra is well worth the upgrade

Posted by kenmay on September - 26 - 2017

MacOS High Sierra was never meant to be truly transformative. As we covered in our preview of Apple’s new desktop OS , it’s mostly focused on refining its predecessor, last year’s Sierra . At the same time, it also lays the groundwork for bigger changes down the line. Since there’s not much you’ll actually notice, and barely anything has changed since we published our extensive preview, we won’t be doing a full review of the new OS. But with High Sierra officially launching today , it’s worth highlighting the handful of notable features. A better Safari Apple claims that Safari 11 in High Sierra is the world’s fastest web browser. My testing with the JetStream benchmark confirmed that it was faster than both Chrome and Firefox on my MacBook Air. Safari clocked in with a score of 176.8, while the other two browsers came in around 129 (and yes, higher is better). Even so, I still found myself relying on the other browsers most of the time. Some of Google’s services, like Hangouts, only work on Chrome. And Firefox is typically the browser I use for dealing with anything related to work (it’s helpful having two browsers open at once for managing multiple Google accounts). While Safari tended to load some sites faster, that wasn’t enough to make me switch over. As for other tweaks, Safari 11 mutes auto-playing web videos by default, which should help bring some peace as more sites push unwanted video on their readers. You can also enable the cleaner “Reader” mode automatically for specific sites, or have it automatically turn on for every website that supports the feature. That’s something you can only do with Chrome through settings hacks, or by installing third-party extensions. Apple also claims Safari will let you browse the web for two hours longer than the other two browsers, as well as watch Netflix for four hours longer. Photos upgrades As we covered in our preview piece, the Photos app got a slew of tweaks. But after testing the OS for the past few months, I ended up appreciating the new Live Photos capabilities the most. Just like in iOS 11, you can now turn Live Photos into short animated clips that resemble GIFs. You can choose from Loop, which just repeats the clip; Bounce, which moves it back and forth in time; and Long Exposure, a unique effect that mimics the dreamy photos you can get by manipulating exposure settings on bigger cameras. They’re not groundbreaking effects, but they finally make Live Photos seem useful, rather than a waste of space. All of other Photos upgrades from iOS 11 also show up in High Sierra. That includes smarter people recognition (which can sync across all of your iCloud-connected devices), more automatic Memories options, and a wider assortment of photo filters. Another helpful upgrade: Third-party companies can now create extensions for Photos, which allows you to do things like prepare photo books without leaving the app. VR support Thanks to Metal 2, Apple’s updated graphics API, MacOS can finally handle virtual reality. Right now, it’s limited to the HTC Vive using SteamVR — sorry, Oculus Rift fans. And, just like with typical games, not every title supports Macs yet. Sure, it’s very much early days for VR on Macs, but at least it’s possible now with High Sierra. We didn’t have any beefy Macs to test out the OS’s VR capabilities, unfortunately. As we’ve noted before, figuring out which Macs can actually support VR is surprisingly confusing. But at least High Sierra also brings support for external GPU docks, which means you can conceivably upgrade any Thunderbolt-equipped Mac with faster graphics capabilities. Metal 2 should also make High Sierra more efficient at rendering windows and typical UI elements, especially if you have a decent dedicated GPU. I didn’t notice much of a difference on my 2014 MacBook Air as I tested the new OS over the past few months. Wrapping up A few other points worth noting: Apple made a big deal about its upgraded Apple File System when it first announced High Sierra, but I didn’t notice much of a difference as I was testing the OS. Surprisingly, the company also dropped support for APFS on hybrid Fusion drives — at this point it only works on SSDs. Siri brings over its improved voice and DJ abilities that we first saw in iOS 11. You can now check on your airline flight status right from the Spotlight search bar. We always knew High Sierra was going to be an iterative update for Apple, but I’m surprised by how few visible changes there are. It’s tough to tell you’ve even upgraded from Sierra unless you peek at your system’s settings. Together with a similarly humdrum iOS 11 update (unless you’re on an iPad), it seems like Apple was more focused on its new hardware this year than its software.

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In-flight Netflix will be available on more airlines in 2018

Posted by kenmay on September - 26 - 2017

Netflix’s in-flight streaming is available through a few carriers around the world, but it’s far from a staple of air travel. More often than not, technological limitations will force you to download that new show before you leave home. It could be far more common going forward, though. Netflix is launching an initiative that will use its mobile device encoding technology to make Netflix accessible on aircraft that don’t always have the luxury of fast satellite internet access . As you might have already surmised, mobile encoding uses far less bandwidth than what you get on the desktop. A “DVD quality” stream uses just 250Kbps, for instance. You won’t confuse that with a 4K HDR stream at home, but it’s good enough for a seat-back display or a tablet. And importantly, it won’t clog an aircraft’s WiFi network. You’d still need a reasonably fast connection to serve a large volume of passengers, but it beats having to limit access to just a few people or none at all. Partnerships with airlines should kick off sometime in early 2018. Netflix isn’t naming specific allies, but it’s safe to say that this opens the door to carriers that couldn’t even consider the idea before. The big question is whether or not it’ll work as well in practice as it does in theory. This could be great for avoiding the mediocre movie and TV selections you frequently find on airlines, but it won’t help much if it renders airborne WiFi unusable the moment there’s a new Stranger Things season .

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An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNBC: Instagram said Monday that it’s added another 100 million monthly users. That brings the photo-sharing app to 800 million monthly active users, up from 700 million in April, according to Carolyn Everson, vice president of global marketing solutions at Facebook, who spoke at an Advertising Week event in New York City. Five hundred million of those are daily active users, the company said. That means that Instagram is still ahead of rival Snap in terms of users, based on Snap’s last report. Snap said in August that it had 173 million daily active users. Time spent watching video on Instagram is up more than 80 percent year over year, the company also said on Monday, and four times as many videos are being produced every day on Instagram compared with a year ago. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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